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  1. #1
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    Hitch vs Roof rack for small car

    Thanks in advance for any advice/thoughts/opinions.

    Would like opinions on trunk vs roof racks to make a decision on which way we should go. I drive a 2004 Lexus IS300, but I appreciate any small car experience and advice stories.

    I've been using a Bones trunk rack for 10 years now and it's been great, but it's reaching the end of it's life and my husband bought a brand new XL Santa Cruz Bronson 29'r that doesn't really fit the rack. In fact, he broke a part on the rack trying to force the bike on and now the bike kind of barely hangs on while being transported. Also for reference, I have a small Specialized Epic 26'r, so the bikes are pretty dramatically different sizes and weights.

    His car isn't conducive to any kind of rack and I love my car, so I am not willing to get something new now just to haul bikes (although we have considered a cheapo 3rd vehicle - wagon or small pick-up - but we don't really have the parking space for a 3rd car and it means maintenance on yet another car).

  2. #2
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    I have 2 different friends that caved in their roofs and totaled their bikes while driving into their garages after switching from trunk racks to roof racks.

    I have never owned a roof bike rack and always preferred hitch mount racks.

  3. #3
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    Why would you throw a trunk rack on such a nice car? Just do it up right and put a hitch on with a Thule T2 or one of the other nice platform hitch racks.

  4. #4
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    only thing to consider with a trunk rack is can your car get a trailer hitch installed? Do you want a trailer hitch installed on your car? And understand that to get a hitch mount rack you also need to factor in the price of the trailer hitch install. So on top of the $300 for the rack you will need to budget in another $125 or so for a trailer hitch to be installed.

    The benefits of the trailer hitch is better gas mileage, less buffeting in the wind and less reaching up to get the bike, plus no need to put tires in the car. The negatives are that your brake lights are somewhat obscured, getting rear ended ruins your bikes, it can be considered illegal in certain areas as it obscures your license and the hot exhaust can melt or damage bike parts depending on your car and exhaust location. The hitch mount is a pain in the ass on the back of the car when you don't have bikes, especially if you use your hatch or trunk regularly during the day.

    Benefits of the roof rack is it is usable for other things besides bikes, bikes are out of your rear view and can't be rear ended, can be cheaper, especially if you have factory rails already on your car, and doesn't interfere with the day to day use of your car. However there is always more wind noise, worse gas mileage and more buffeting in the wind plus either have to buy more parts to support front wheel or a full bike mount which makes the bike taller. Then there is the low garage disaster.

    I have both on one car. We carry the kids' bikes on the roof and our bikes on the back. I prefer the hitch except for accessing the hatch on our subie.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelInOr View Post
    I have 2 different friends that caved in their roofs and totaled their bikes while driving into their garages after switching from trunk racks to roof racks.

    I have never owned a roof bike rack and always preferred hitch mount racks.
    I actually know someone this happened to as well, and this is a concern.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2m2hs View Post
    Why would you throw a trunk rack on such a nice car? Just do it up right and put a hitch on with a Thule T2 or one of the other nice platform hitch racks.
    When I bought the car, I didn't have much choice. But the car is now 13 years old and I plan to own it for life. Any minor damage it has suffered from the trunk rack is far less than the damage it suffered from some jerk who keyed the passenger side in a Lowe's parking lot...but it's a car. You can't keep it pristine forever.

  7. #7
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    Do you pull into garages or drive-thru regularly? Then go with the hitch. Too easy to space out after a tough ride. The threat of being rear ended is minimal if you pay attention, after a tough ride.....Same difference.

    Which is cheaper?
    How can anyone who's been riding as long as I have, be so slow???

  8. #8
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    Add a hitch & hitch rack. I made the move from roof to hitch for the bikes a few years back and works out awesome.

    I use the roof for my Yakima box & skis/snowboards.
    Collection of fun carbon & titanium bikes

    @tgi_cycling

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rock View Post
    Do you pull into garages or drive-thru regularly? Then go with the hitch. Too easy to space out after a tough ride. The threat of being rear ended is minimal if you pay attention, after a tough ride.....Same difference.

    Which is cheaper?
    I do park in a garage, although even with the trunk rack am in the habit of stopping outside the garage to unload. I'm not a drive-thru person, but my husband occasionally wants Starbucks after riding.

    Hitch rack would be more expensive. The part I have to buy to create a hitch-mount on my car is about $400, plus the cost to install. Then the cost of the rack on top of that, so I figure I'm looking at $1k.

  10. #10
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    I paid a guy to install a sturdy 2" hitch on my Toyota Matrix and on my teenage son's sporty little car. We have been sharing the same rack for the past few years, but now that he's off to college I will need another rack (different story!). Anyway, I love having the hitch on my car.

    In certain situations the adjustment knob on the rack can scrape the ground. This usually only happens when backing up into my driveway with a fully loaded vehicle. I try to remember to stop first and make everyone get out, lol.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by onebratt08 View Post
    Hitch rack would be more expensive. The part I have to buy to create a hitch-mount on my car is about $400, plus the cost to install. Then the cost of the rack on top of that, so I figure I'm looking at $1k.
    Do you live outside the US? A class 1 receiver for that car is under $200.
    Curt Hitch 2004 Lexus IS300
    You could buy a receiver and an inexpensive, but perfectly capable rack like a Swagman XTC2 for around $400.

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